Release Date: July 4th, 2007 (Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) by MGM Pictures.
The Cast: Christian Bale, Jeremy Davies, Steve Zahn, Marshall Bell, François Chau, Craig Gellis, Zach Grenier, Pat Healy, GQ, Toby Huss, Bonnie Z. Hutchinson, Evan Jones, Abhijati "Meuk" Jusakul, Tony B. King.
Directed by Werner Herzog.
BASIC PREMISE: During the Vietnam War, Dieter Dengler (Bale), a U.S. Fighter pilot, ends up in a Laos POW camp and tries to escape. Based on a true story.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Rescue Dawn works well as a suspenseful survival film, but not particularly absorbing or captivating enough given the lack of attention to character development. Christian Bale gives a terrific performance as Dieter Dengler, a young man who joins the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. His small plane crashes during a mission in Laos and he soon ends up POW camp. For the rest of the intense second act, he struggles to survive against hunger, thirst and the violent Laotian soldiers who hold him captive. Luckily, he meets two other American POWs, Gene (Davies) and Duane (Zahn) and plans a daring escape with them. Writer/director Werner Herzog gradually builds up suspense with the intricate details of the escape, which also involves them secretly saving rice in a secret compartment inside their portable toilet. Some scenes in the camp feel a bit tedious as the POW soldiers merely go about their daily routine—i.e., eating rice covered in worms. It would have been more absorbing, though, if the screenplay allowed for more character development so that Dieter would be more than just a physically and mentally strong man. Even though he also directed a 1997 documentary about Dieter’s amazing escape, Herzog fails to breathe enough life into the cinematic version of the story. Some relationships feel underdeveloped, such as one between Dieter and a friendly Laotian who works at the camp. Just as expected, the cinematography and scenery look absolutely lush, breathtaking and even beautiful. If only the one-dimensional characters as captivating as their surroundings, this would have been more powerful survival film, just like The Edge.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: None, other than the importance of being courageous and optimistic in order to survive.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Poor character development and occasionally tedious.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 4
IN A NUTSHELL: Suspenseful and intense with lush scenery, but not absorbing or captivating enough.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: DVD
The "R" Menu